We share a collective obligation to look out for those who have bravely served their country through military service. Our veterans should be able to return home knowing that they have a better than average shot at securing meaningful employment because if anyone's earned the right to live the American Dream, it's those who have defended it.
In the military "teamwork" and "performing under pressure" can make the difference between life and death, yet in the modern American workplace these terms are cited so often that they've lost their meaning. Despite the real-world value of military experience, employers often find it difficult to draw a straight line between military service and required skills. As a result some of the better-paying career paths remain out of reach for our returning vets.
The good news however, is that the tech sector is booming and more open than most to consider alternative candidates. According to code.org, the U.S. is on track to face a shortage of 1M computing jobs by 2020. Forbes listed the software development field in its top ten Jobs for Veterans last year. Software is increasingly playing a central role in business and, degree or no degree, demand for those who have the ability to write code has skyrocketed.
And more good news: you don't have to go to college to learn programming; a new wave of education has emerged offering quicker, more direct and affordable options to enter the field. People learn in different ways, so below are three suggestions to help people capitalize on the huge career opportunities in software development.
1) Free Resources: CodeAcademy will start you on the path to becoming a developer. It's a great no-cost way to discover if coding is something that interests you. You may wish to take things a little further looking into pure online paid courses and certificates through Coursera, Udemy, Treehouse or Udacity.
2) Online Hybrids: Much like the platforms mentioned above, online hybrids like Thinkful and Bloc.io offer affordable and efficient ways to absorb the complexities associated with learning to code. These platforms recognize that sometimes you need a real person to help you get unstuck and have developed curated forums and have utilized Google hangouts, Skype and other tools to incorporate mentorship into their models.
3) Coding Bootcamps: Typically shorter in duration (9-24 weeks), more expensive (average tuition $12k), but in most cases with a strong student: teacher ratio, the in-person coding bootcamp naturally sits on the more intensive end of the learning spectrum. Organizations like DevBootcamp and HackReactor have made the model famous and newer players like Tech Elevator have emerged to not only teach code but to add focus on career path development and job placement with their Pathway Program, backed by a tuition refund guarantee. There are even veteran-specific programs like Code Platoon worth checking out.
If you're a vet, or you know one who needs a career boost, it's definitely a path worth exploring. According to US News and World Report, the average software developer in the US made $97k in 2014. That's a compelling number, but be warned, it takes a specific brain to thrive in the field. In short, it's not for everyone.
Before going down the discovery path, to save folks time we've developed a quick aptitude test to help determine if they've got what it takes. If you're a veteran, and you shine on the assessment, it's worth it to look seriously at learning to code. With this job market, and with your background, employers will be falling over themselves to hire you at great wages well above the average of your veteran peers.
Good luck to you. Thank you for your service, and may you receive the good fortune you deserve in your careers beyond the military.
Additional resources - For veterans looking for a way to translate their experience more effectively, this is a good quick guide.